The Boston Celtics had a players-only meeting ahead of Wednesday’s 92-79 win in Orlando over the Magic, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The meeting came in the wake of Boston’s fourth-quarter meltdown Monday against the Chicago Bulls, as Boston went from being up 14 at the start of the fourth to losing by 14 — and dropping to 2-5 on the season — thanks to Chicago outscoring Boston 39-11 on its home floor.
The three players discussed both the collapse and Smart’s comments, sources told Wojnarowski, with sources also saying it was emotional at times.
“The last few days, we’ve just been focused on Orlando,” Brown said after scoring 28 points in Boston’s win. “That was the goal: come out, try to get a win. That was it. Team meeting — just an opportunity to talk as a group, get some communication going in, and move forward.
“At the end of the day, we’ve been playing basketball together for a long time, all of us, especially our core group. So when it comes down to it, it’s all about trying to find ways to win, and that’s what the conversation was about, et cetera. The last two days, we’ve just been focused on Orlando, and now we’re focused on Miami.”
After Monday’s loss, Smart unloaded in his postgame news conference, saying Brown and Tatum need to become better distributors and that the team has to have him do more than simply stand in the corner and wait for the ball to come.
Brown said after Wednesday’s game that Smart’s comments weren’t necessarily helpful.
“Obviously in the midst of trying to win games, it’s something that we probably didn’t need,” Brown said. “But we all communicate and talk to each other. So we’re always trying to find ways to win and I’m open to any and everything when guys bring it to me, coaching staff. I’m always watching film trying to better myself and be a better basketball player and find ways to make my teammates better. So it felt good to get a win today.”
Boston has made a point of discussing Brown and Tatum’s need to grow as playmakers both throughout the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season. But Tatum’s assist numbers are down so far this season, dropping from 4.3 to 3.7 per game, despite playing more minutes, while Brown has dropped from 3.4 to 2.5 per game.
The need for them to both grow in that area was made more acute by Boston’s decision to trade Kemba Walker, along with a first-round pick, for Al Horford this offseason, as Boston looked to both improve its defense and better balance its roster. While point guard Dennis Schroder is leading the team in assists this season with 6.4 helpers per game, he’s largely come off the bench behind Smart, putting the onus on Tatum and Brown to distribute the ball.
Tatum, meanwhile, has struggled mightily to open the season, shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from 3-point range. Those percentages weren’t helped much in Wednesday’s game against Orlando, as Tatum finished 4-for-16 from the field and 1-for-6 from 3-point range.
“I can do a lot of things better,” Brown said. “Try to find ways to get guys going, talking to Jayson, trying to find ways to get him going. Just making our teammates better. I think that’s part of being a leader and things like that. I still have a lot of growth to do that I’m actively working on. But that’s my challenge and I’m focusing my energy on that. Just continuing to watch film and get better and see how I can make my teammates better.”